Global Affairs June 8, 2024 by

Stefan Oudman

China conducts military exercise near Taiwan

Chinese military exercises near Taiwan are happening more often and are becoming more threatening. “This really goes a step further,” says China correspondent Roland Smid. “This exercise is very extensive.” Not only does it involve the Chinese Navy, but also the Air Force, marking a significant escalation.
The current exercise simulates the elimination of strategic targets on Taiwan, a shift from previous exercises that focused primarily on encircling the island. For the first time, remote islands close to the Chinese coast are also being targeted.

Intent Behind the Exercises
Smid emphasizes that this exercise is mainly a ‘deterrent.’ “China wants to intimidate and put maximum pressure on Taiwan to curb its independence rhetoric.”

Rising Tensions
While Chinese claims over Taiwan have stayed the same, two main changes have made tensions worse. First, Taiwanese identity is becoming stronger, with young Taiwanese valuing democracy and freedom. Second, the military power gap between China and Taiwan is growing. “From a military perspective, China is becoming much stronger compared to Taiwan,” says Smid. “China has two million soldiers, nuclear weapons, and the largest navy in the world. Taiwan, on the other hand, has a small army and not enough weapons.”

Political Developments
The exercise coincides with the recent inauguration of Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, whom China views as a troublemaker and a dangerous separatist. “The recent elections have made China extra angry,” says Smid. Despite his previous statements supporting Taiwan’s independence, Ching-te’s inauguration speech was moderate, similar to his predecessor’s. However, he referred to Beijing not as ‘the authorities in Beijing’ but as ‘China,’ subtly asserting Taiwan’s separate identity. “That word is very important for China,” notes Smid.

Impact on Taiwan
As a result, the exercises seem to have had relatively little impact in Taiwan. “There is no sudden panic on the island about an invasion,” says Smid. “Taiwanese have been living with that threat from China for a long time.”

Expert Opinions
Most experts, including Smid, believe the situation will remain limited to military exercises. A real invasion or a trade blockade, which China threatened in 2022 after American politician Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, is not yet expected. “This is not a prelude to an invasion, but it is intended to scare Taiwan and the rest of the world.”

Global Implications
However, if either scenario—a trade blockade or an invasion—were to become reality, it would have significant global consequences. A trade blockade on Taiwan would disrupt the global economy, given Taiwan’s crucial role in the tech industry. For example, the Taiwanese company TSMC is the largest and most advanced chip manufacturer in the world, vital for the global chip industry. Many countries are also dependent on Taiwan for electronics and other goods.

In the event of an attack, countries worldwide would face tough decisions, such as imposing sanctions on China. This could lead to economic repercussions due to widespread dependency on Chinese products, including essential goods like medicines. The global economy would face severe disruptions if China decided to halt trade.

This article was written by a 10th grade High School student as an internship assignment with CIRIS


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Stefan Oudman

Stefan Oudman